WITH series of protests called over the dwindling fortunes of the nation’s economy, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, on Monday admitted that the economic situation was dire but government was determined to reverse the trend.
Speaking at the opening of the latest installment of the consultative forum on the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) at the Conference Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, he noted the ongoing protests across Nigeria and assured that government had heard the demands of the protesters who he affirmed, had the right to protest.
According to him, President Muhammadu Buhari was worried about the situation and had himself observed that the economic recession of the country meant that many people were not able to pay school fees or afford the high cost of food commodities while for others, it meant joblessness.
Osinbajo said he was well aware of what the people were going through having traveled around the country, saying: “I for one have been across the states and even today some people are out on the street protesting that things are difficult.”
“What we are saying to every Nigeria is that ‘we hear you loud and clear,’ and we are determined to recover the economy.
“You have a right to demand for a better economy and we are committed to see it happen.
“Years of deterioration cannot be reversed over night. Again, it has to be said that it’s our business, it’s our duty to ensure that we put the Nigerian economy on the track of recovery.
“For the past 18 months, we have had to intervene three times to states to enable them have enough resources to pay salaries and the last intervention was in December when we disbursed the Paris Club refund to the states.
“This are funds that the federal government was owing states since 2005. This was to enable states pay their workers and we tend to believe that this is what is being done.”
The acting President spoke about the Social Intervention Fund being implemented by the administration which includes the payment of N5,000 a month to the most vulnerable citizens and the home grown school feeding programme which has started in several states.
Osinbajo noted that the programme would provide opportunities for farmers all across the country, adding that government was also providing credit facility to 1.6 million traders and artisans among others.
He explained that the ERGP was engaging the private sector as active partners as the federal government on its own could not do it alone.
He told the participants that their participation was their own “commitment to the future of our country and to those coming behind us.
In his presentation, Minister of Budget and Economic Planning, Udoma Udoma, explained the meeting formed part of the consultations before the finalization of the ERGP plan.
He said the specific objective of these forums were to: review the context for Nigeria’s ERGP, share the plan’s structure and discuss potential key initiatives and solicit feedback from the participants.